Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives 4.0: Josh Davy

There's a story behind every robot Josh Davy creates.
There's a story behind every robot Josh Davy creates. Josh Nethken
#21: Josh Davy

Josh Davy creates nuts-and-bolts robot sculptures made with spit and everyday hardware, but he does so with a sculptor’s eye, and as he mentions below, he hopes to endow every work with a life of its own. As a member of the Next Gallery co-op in Lakewood, he’s also a booster for the sprouting community in the 40 West Arts District, where he says something special is happening as more artists priced out of Denver move west and coalesce in an upstart environment. Connectivity is paramount to artists like Davy, who explains himself via the 100CC questionnaire.

click to enlarge Josh Davy at Next Gallery. - CHRISTY LYNNE SEVING
Josh Davy at Next Gallery.
Christy Lynne Seving
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Josh Davy: The work is my muse. I’ve never wanted to be anything but an artist, and even at times when I wasn’t involved in a creative community, the compulsion to make was still there. I started as a silversmith, and I see jewelry as a pure and beautiful form of art, but I hate sparkly mall jewelry. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the difference, and I believe there’s a relationship formed with a handcrafted object. There’s a relationship between the object and the artist, and then a new relationship is formed with the piece and the people who appreciate it. That’s my muse, the relationship with the piece.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?

Hemingway. The man was more than rough around the edges—he was raw. He was damaged and depressed and a beautiful writer. Ginsberg and Kerouac, for similar reasons. I think there are more personal questions that I’d like to ask them, though. I want to know what Denver and Boulder were like in the middle of the last century through their eyes, and I want to ask them about being unapologetically gay or bisexual in a time when that was totally socially unacceptable. I want to know if they were that brave or so wild they truly didn’t care what people thought.

click to enlarge Another Davy robot sculpture. - COURTESY OF JOSH DAVY
Another Davy robot sculpture.
Courtesy of Josh Davy
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

Denver is full of people who are tirelessly committed to art, and people who are more than willing to take advantage of that. We build creative districts, we create vibrant and interesting communities that people want to visit and invest in and move into. Then we lose those art districts that we worked so hard for. I’m not sure there’s any way to stop it, and as much I’d love to be bitter I think it’s healthy for the artists to be that strong and tenacious.  We will rebuild every single time, and so the best thing about Denver’s artists is found in our reaction to the worst things about art in Denver.

How about globally?

The older I get the more I realize that there’s only so much in life that I can affect, and only so much that I can deal with worrying about. The art world is changing, and the way that we connect with the art world is changing.  The way we interact with each other is changing, we’re both more connected and more distant in ways. I love social media and I hate it at the same time. There are artists I love who like my work enough to follow my Instagram account, but we’ve never met and probably never will. I appreciate that they see what I’m doing, but I’d rather have a conversation with a local artist than trade likes with someone I respect in L.A.

click to enlarge Davy also sculpts fantasy buildings and houses. - COURTESY OF JOSH DAVY
Davy also sculpts fantasy buildings and houses.
Courtesy of Josh Davy
What should people know about the 40 West Arts District, where Next and other Denver co-ops have relocated in the last year?

Let’s go back to the thing I said about those people in Denver who are tirelessly committed to art. The City of Lakewood wants artists, and they are working to draw artists into 40 West to build a viable district. It’s working, and the galleries who have moved to Lakewood are making it work. Next is busier than we’ve ever been. We have the strongest group of artists we’ve ever had, and there’s a waiting list to become a member of our gallery.  The way we’re doing things is a little unorthodox. We don’t have openings that follow the traditional model of perfect white silence – we have events. We have parties. We try to make Next a destination for the night rather than a place to stop off on your way to somewhere else. We had a lovely little gallery when we were on Navajo, but what we’re doing now is more. We are at the forefront of what’s going on in 40 West, and now that we have Pirate and Edge with us again, we think we can do more.

What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?

My first show in Denver in 2011 was so quiet. I presented a body of work that I was proud of but nobody saw; I wanted to quit but I didn’t. At my second show in Denver in 2012, I sold a single piece. Mary, the woman who bought that piece, came to my last opening and bought, I think, the fifth or sixth one for her collection? It was a good show and sold very well, but the fact that I can call this particular person my friend, and she always shows up for me, means more to me than people buying my work for the first time. It makes me feel good about what I’m doing, like I’m doing something right whether I get my work into commercial galleries across the country or spend the rest of my life focused on Denver.

click to enlarge Josh Davy at work. - CHRISTY LYNNE SEVING
Josh Davy at work.
Christy Lynne Seving
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?

Grow. I don’t have a lot of specific goals. I don’t need to walk the Camino de Santiago or anything, as long as my next show is a little better than my last one, as long as I can learn a new art process to incorporate, and maybe include something deeper about myself, as a way to be a little kinder and more accepting of people who don’t see the world exactly the way I do. I care more about what I’ll learn next than what I’ll do next, but my recent involvement in the changing art scene has piqued my interest in founding or directing a gallery.

Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

I came into my own in Denver. This is where I was when I took a look at my life and realized that I’ve become what I always wanted to be when I grew up. I was an artist before I moved here, but I never found my community, and I never believed that I’d reached my potential. I have no plans to ever leave Denver, but I’m also speaking from the perspective of a person with a life built here. I have a career and a home and recognize how hard it would be to start over here. I want to encourage young Denver artists to get involved, but I don’t think I’d counsel a young artist that I cared about to move here.  

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Valerie Savarie. There are a lot of people I care about and respect and am tempted to mention, but I see something of my own interests and aesthetic in her work, and to me it seems that she is fulfilling her dreams with raw talent and force of will.  She’s gone from a similar place in her career as mine and moved into art full-time, as an artist and gallery owner.  She’s also a really cool person, which is a worthwhile thing to aspire to.

click to enlarge Josh Davy reimagines a tenement walkup. - COURTESY OF JOSH DAVY
Josh Davy reimagines a tenement walkup.
Courtesy of Josh Davy
What's on your agenda in the coming year?

I’m always looking for my next direction as an artist. I spent a couple of years making ceramic work that was a response to gentrification in Denver and what it’s meant for artists here. I’m currently doing mixed-media sculpture that is some of my best work to date, but I want to push myself harder. I want to develop new skills and surprise people with my next idea.

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

I very much hope that the Denver art scene picks up on Logan Reynolds in the next year. He’s a talented young sculptor who’s been an understudy to some great local ceramic artists for the last few years. I think he’s helping Kim Dickey with her new work right now, but he’s building his own body of work that deserves some attention.

See new work by Josh Davy in Love & Physics: Art and Artifacts by Josh Davy, currently on view at Next Gallery, 6851 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, through June 24.

Learn more about Josh Davy and his work online. Visit the Next Gallery and 40 West home pages to keep up with new shows and the latest from Lakewood’s growing art district.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd